The Mill

September 9, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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The sound of the alarm clock gradually bringing her back to consciousness meant she must have finally fallen asleep. She groaned, propped herself up on her elbows and brushed the long blonde hair out of her face so she could read the time. The last time she’d looked at it, it had read 7:34 A.M., and she had yet to get a lick of sleep. Now the clock read 10:07, meaning the damn thing had been buzzing for the past seven minutes…and that she had yet another night that may as well have been sleepless.

Kelly Baker let out another groan and reached out her left hand as far as it could reach, her slender fingers coming just short of the nightstand where the pesky clock laid. Her confusion wearing off and turning to frustration, she rolled onto her back, propped herself up against the headboard, and slammed the top of the clock with the bottom of her fist several times, hitting just about every button on the thing but snooze. Now beeping instead of buzzing, she grabbed it in both hands and yanked it towards her, tearing the power cord out of it’s socket. She was about to throw it across the room when she stopped herself short, gently placing the clock back onto the nightstand.

Sighing, Kelly rubbed her face. She had a headache that raged as fiercely as the alarm clock, and though she wanted nothing more than to crawl back under the sheets and sleep the day away, she knew it was as hopeless as her chance of having another steady relationship. She tossed the remaining covers off and climbed out of bed.

Kelly slept naked, and the cool air of the apartment instantly chilled her to the bone. Making her way to the windowless bathroom across the hall, she pulled the aspirin out of the medicine cabinet and tossed two in her mouth, reconsidered, and popped in a third. Normally a girl that would swallow them one at a time, she poured herself half a glass of water, and swallowed all three at once. She studied her tired face in the mirror for a moment before turning to the shower stall. She turned on the hot water in the shower, the pipes creaking in disagreement as she did, and exited the bathroom as the water warmed up.

Though Kelly had been living in the apartment for a week, she had done little unpacking and nothing was where it was supposed to be save for the furniture, which her dad had helped her put in place the day she moved in. Ordinarily, her living space was very neat and orderly, but the apartment was still in awry, boxes upon boxes stacked and placed wherever they would fit. The spare room was packed with them, a few had wound up in the narrow hallway or in the master bedroom, and the rest were upstairs in the middle of the living room. Despite having the past several days off, she had done virtually no unpacking, spending most of her days haphazardly going about, and today, in all likeliness, would be no different.

The Harwick Mill Apartments were a far cry from the lifestyle she was used to in her parents’ home. Built in the early 1900’s, the building had once been a textile mill at the center of the Harwick Brothers operation, and the entire town, for that matter. The sprawling brick building took up nearly an entire block, and with it’s three stories and countless large arched windows, at one point it had been the most awe-striking building in town, and probably was up until it closed down during the depression.

Over the years since they were abandoned, many of the old factories and warehouses associated with the Harwick Brothers Company had been lost. At least two burned to the ground, one only ten years ago, and several were demolished to make way for newer projects. Several more factories still lay in disrepair, overgrown, and with fences and and warning signs that seldom kept kids from vandalizing the properties into even further degradation, a poignant reminder from a time long passed that nothing lasts forever.

It wasn’t until the late 70s that the restoration project took place; the very restoration that turned the decaying Harwick Mill into the Harwick Mill Apartments. Several other buildings were converted into storage units, offices, and various small businesses. The buildings that once made this Connecticut town rich now served the needs of the lower income residents.
Apartment number 123 was on the interior of the building facing the courtyard, as were all the odd-numbered apartments, and she was glad for that, for she would take the green lawn over the parking lot any day of the week when she looked out her window. And though her apartment was a two-bedroom unit, they charged her the price of a one-bedroom unit. Probably because that was all it was worth, and judging by the lack of people around, she gathered they needed all the tenants they could get.

With the shower still warming up, Kelly briefly returned to her room, grabbing her undergarments and her outfit for the day, coming from the same cardboard box as the outfits from the past three days. The box was marked ‘sweats’ and today’s outfit (that being the one that was closest to the top) was her black and pink volleyball warm-up suit she hadn’t worn since her team made it into the semi-finals her senior year of college. That had been two years ago, when she was twenty-one and things were alright in the world. Well, in her world at least. She thought of the friends she had then, of her drive to do well both as a key member of the volleyball team and towards doing well in school.

The hot water wouldn’t last long, maybe five minutes if she was lucky, and she hurried back to the bathroom. She jumped in the shower, and directed the shower head at her forehead, hoping it would make the headache go away. A cold was coming on, for she’d had a sore throat all day yesterday, and a sore throat had always meant a cold was just around the corner for Kelly Baker. She got them at least twice a year, one in the fall and one in the spring. She thought of Brian, of how she was supposed to be moving in with him, not into this apartment. Doing so was the last thing she wanted to do, but with her parents moving up to Vermont for retirement, it was the best she could do on such short notice, for there were few places that even fit into her budget, and the Mill had been the most viable option, the closest to work. And it was the cheapest, though Kelly now knew why.

After drying herself off, Kelly donned her clothes, not expecting the warm-up to fit as well as it had two years prior, even though she was just as slim now as she was then. She’d lost a little weight since then, and she imagined she probably lost most of it in the past week. She zipped the jacket all the way up, fixed her hair with her hand, and declared herself ready for the day. There was no point in doing anything else if there was no one in your life to dress up for. Though she knew she should at least be happy her outfit fit her as well as it had two years ago, a sudden longing, not only for her relationship with Brian or for the comfort of her parents’ home, but for just being a girl.

Kelly was twenty-three, over a year out of school with a BA in English, and she knew it was passed time to grow up, but…well, being an adult sucked. Being an adult and supporting herself had always been in the future, a thing that never seemed like it would come. And when it did, she would have her steady boyfriend Brian Jackson at her side every step of the way. Or so she had thought, until he dumped her two weeks prior without really giving her a reason why, other than ‘it’s not working for us anymore’, which isn’t a reason.

Brian had gotten a job offer as a CPA up in Mass, while Kelly was still working as a waitress at Chester’s Grill, where she’d worked since she was eighteen, and she had just assumed she wasn’t good enough for Mr. CPA anymore. Initially it had devastated her, and she was heartbroken and didn’t understand what it was she had done. But over the past few days, those feelings had been mixed with bitterness and anger, some of it towards herself, but more and more towards Brian, and the other woman in his life she could only assume existed. She often pictured her as a slutty, bipolar nurse named Samantha. Good, she hoped it was true, because it was no more than Brian deserved.

Kelly made her way to the stairs, being joined by a draft of cool air the entire length of the hallway. She gave a brief glance at the hatchway on the landing halfway up the stairs. Located out of reach of what her five-foot-seven frame could reach without a stepping stool, she had yet to open it, and intended to put a picture frame over it, because a cold draft came out of there, too, it seemed. She supposed if she ever had something valuable enough, it would be a good place to hide it, if she ever felt inclined to get a stool and do so. Of course, if Brian was here, she wouldn’t need the stool. She scowled at the thought, and made her way upstairs to fix herself breakfast in the kitchen, which hadn’t been as warm as she had hoped.

Because of those windows. Kelly was no expert on the matter, but she would eat her panties if those windows weren’t original to the building. They were yellowed beyond belief, scratched, even cracked in some places, and the green paint looked like it hadn’t been touched up since the place had been restored. The four windows upstairs were terrible; the two windows closer to the kitchen had gaps between the frame and the brick wall large enough for her to stick her pinky through in places, and she could only imagine the amount of bugs that must get in when the weather was warmer. And whatever heat didn’t escape through the windows that were taller than her instead uselessly heated the upper portion of the ten-foot high ceiling of the upper level. While the two windows in each bedroom downstairs were smaller and slightly better fitted to let a little less air in, there was a constant draft of air being pushed down the staircase every minute of every hour of every day. And this was only late October. Kelly could hardly imagine how cold it was going to be come winter.

Aside from the windows, her biggest complaint with the place since she’d moved in had been the random noises she heard at all times of the day, but seemed to be particularly prevalent at night. Though some seemed to be coming from apartment 121, the unit behind her kitchen, most of them came from the floor above her apartment. She knew there was no one living up there, for all of the apartments on the premises occupied just the first two floors, but it certainly sounded like someone was constantly moving stuff around up there.

And then there were the statues. Even the unartistic eye like her own could see the great love and detail put into each and every one of them, and though they were fascinating, she also found them creepy and unsettling. Like she was being watched by them. Most of them were out in the courtyard, but she knew there were at least a few throughout the building. There were two of them in the lobby, of which she believed to be the Harwick brothers, and another of a young girl in the pool room. She knew it was irrational, for if you had bottomless pits of money as the Harwick family once had, you could collect whatever it was you wanted, as many as you wanted, and she gathered one of the Harwicks, or perhaps a descendant, had a love for such statues, and gotten them made in honor of those important to the business, and perhaps their loved ones.

Still, perhaps what she found most disturbing about them wasn’t the statues themselves; rather that the statue population seemed to be higher than the population of actual, living people. And frankly, she wouldn’t mind seeing more people about, especially at a time in her life when she’d never felt more vulnerable. She supposed what she really needed was a friend she could trust, and though she had acquaintances at Chester’s, she didn’t have anyone she really confided in as a friend since high school. Well, anyone other than Brian, and she supposed that had been her own doing.

Though the kitchen was probably the highlight of the apartment and fit her needs, perhaps Kelly’s favorite feature in the entire apartment were the shelves on the far wall of the living room area, which took up two thirds of the entire upper level. The darkly-stained shelves started about waist high and went up almost all the way to the ceiling. Even with all the books, movies and other knick-knacks she had, she didn’t think she’d ever have enough stuff to fill those shelves, which was a good thing, because there was no way she could even reach the top shelves without a ladder or climbing up the shelves themselves. Deciding she needed something to keep her mind occupied today, she reckoned she could do something with those shelves.

All she felt like for breakfast was a plain bagel, and walking around with it on a paper plate, Kelly found the two large boxes of books right off, and started with that, deciding to put the books on the far left corner away from the windows where she would likely spend most of her time reading in her chair. She would have to go digging up the lamp later to put on the table next to the chair so she could actually see the books when it got dark.

Kelly started with the paperbacks, which ranged from Stephen King to Nora Roberts, arranging each by author, starting on the lower shelves and working her way up. She thoroughly dusted and cleaned each shelf before placing her books neatly, and though it wasn’t much, it was enough to keep her occupied from thinking about either her headache or that dick. It had gone unhindered until she reached the fourth shelf.

Kelly had to stand on her tip-toes just to reach the fourth shelf, and without standing on the bottom shelf, she could do little more than dust the very edges. But when she began placing the books on the shelf, starting in the far left corner where the shelf met the brick wall wall, the book wouldn’t push in, as if something was blocking it, and Kelly pulled it back out. She realized she’d have no choice but to climb up there and find out what the obstruction was that was interrupting her otherwise steady progress.

Above her, something metallic clanked onto the floor, and she perked up, looking at the ceiling. She paused a moment, listening intently for any other noises, then shrugged it off.

Kelly nimbly climbed up on to the first shelf, which was solid enough to support her weight thanks to the brick ledge below it, and she nearly lost her balance as she did so, but was spared from falling when she grabbed onto one of the shelves that was thankfully screwed in tight. She squinted at the corner where the obstruction was, inching her way down, but still couldn’t quite see what was there, so she reached back there and withdrew whatever it was hiding in the shadows. She nearly screamed when she saw it, but then quickly realized it wasn’t real.

It was a mouse. Or a sculpture of one, at least. It was light as a feather, even though it looked heavy. Minus being entirely brown, the mouse looked every bit like the real deal. She jumped down from the shelf and blew off the dust and a cobwebs, and spent a good moment further looking it over. It was extremely detailed. Someone certainly put in a lot of work making the little mouse.

Kelly brought the mouse over to the kitchen sink, spending a moment to rinse the little guy off. She looked closer and was startled by it’s shockingly realistic little face, and for a moment she was convinced it was going to spring to life and chew her face off. She almost dropped the mouse at the thought, but then gathered her senses. It was just a decoration. Still, it had a uncanny resemblance to the human statues throughout the apartments, despite not being human, that is. While she was pondering this, there came three steady knocks at the door.

Leaving the kitchen, Kelly gingerly set the mouse down on the banister, and looked over at the door curiously. She wasn’t expecting anyone today, and her first thought was that it was Brian, and he would be in tears, begging forgiveness. Then she could slam the door in his face, to tell him she would never take him back, whatever would make him feel her pain. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she had the thought of seeing one of those statues from out in the courtyard on the other side of her door, and she hesitated a moment before continuing on. It wasn’t Brian in tears, nor was it an axe-wielding statue from hell coming to chop her up into pieces. It was Melinda Harwick, the owner and manager of the apartment complex.

Kelly thought she might have preferred the murderous statue.

Under ordinary circumstances, she would have felt chagrined to be seen looking the way she did, but these were anything but ordinary circumstances. That aside, she had little like for Ms. Melinda Harwick, as the sign at the desk in her lobby read, and cared little for what the snobby old hag thought of her. Short and stubby, the woman always wore her signature white Victorian hat, a large diamond necklace, and enough perfume to choke an elephant. Kelly was certain she could almost smell her perfume through the door, about the only thing in this place that was even remotely air-tight.
Kelly had twice visited the witch’s office since she arrived, once the day she arrived to get her key and be seen to her unit, and then to file a complaint only two days ago about whoever was upstairs making too much noise when she was trying to sleep. Ms. Harwick had explained that the noises were likely caused by her brother, Boris, also the maintenance man. When Kelly asked to speak to Boris about his hours of operation, Melinda had only commented that Boris was not much of a people person, but that she would pass the message along. Kelly had gotten the vibe that she had been little more than a waste of the woman’s time. The last thing the woman had said before Kelly had left, was: ‘You don’t come to live at Harwick Mill for comfortable living, you come here for the experience.’ Kelly had no reply to that, though reckoned her face had given away plenty of what she had been thinking.

Perhaps she had now come to apologize for her rudeness or to offer an explanation for said disturbances, if it was indeed her brother Boris. And the more Kelly thought about it, there just might be a correlation between her pompous attitude towards the tenants of the mill and the lack of residents therin.

Kelly contemplated seeing how long it would take for her to go away, but she found herself opening the door instead.

“Good afternoon, Miss Baker. Sorry for dropping by without notice, but it’s standard procedure for us to come by and check upon our tenants. May I?”

“Uh, sure.” Kelly said, gesturing to the boxes in the middle of the room “Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.”

“Oh, no worries, sweetie. I’ve seen my fair share of people moving in my day.”

The tea pot whistled, and Kelly had no choice but to mind her manners. “I was just making myself some tea, but there is probably enough hot water for two. Would you care for a cup? I have green and black.”

“No, but thank you, Miss Baker.”

“You can just call me Kelly,” she said, making her way to the kitchen. She wasn’t going to give up her tea on her behalf. “Would you like to sit down?” Though what she thought was ‘please leave’. “Here, I’ll move some boxes if you-”

“Not necessary, thank you Kelly. I’ve been sitting on my buttocks all morning. I need to stretch my legs for a while. Besides, I won’t be taking too much of your time, I don’t think.”

Kelly just nodded and took a sip of tea. The woman simply stood there for a moment, studying the younger woman, seemingly apprehensive about taking a single step further into the apartment, which was just fine with Kelly. Melinda broke the silence between them. “I used to play volleyball too when I was about your age. I was quite good, if I say so myself. Actually, I..” Melinda’s eyes focused on the top of the stairs, and she gasped. “Oh, my. Would you look at this,” She said, making a move to the top of the stairs, picking up the mouse from the banister. “Where did you get this?”

Kelly had temporarily forgotten all about the curious little mouse, and then pointed at the shelf which now held over forty Stephen King novels. “I just found it a little while ago, when I was arranging my shelf,” she took another sip of her tea. “I guess it must have belonged to the previous tenant and was left behind by mistake. Easy enough to miss, I guess, it’s small, and the same color as the shelving.”

“I thought he was long lost,” Melinda said, looking upon the mouse in awe. “Oh, sweetie, this is a good omen.” She paused a long moment, seemingly forgetting Kelly was even there, her eyes transfixed on the mouse, before she looked up again. “This belonged to my grandfather. My great-grandfather made this for him. This was his first casting.”

“First casting?”

“Yes. Well, have you time for a little history?”

“Sure.”

“Well, as you may or may not know, my great-grandfather was Edgar Harwick. He was the younger of the two brothers who founded Harwick Brothers, Herbert being the elder. They were in the textile industry, and beginning in 1901, the two of them constructed and operated this mill and many others in this area of town. Business flourished, and so did the town. Farmland gave way to homes for the families of the workers, and the town prospered, and for a time, was quite famous, at least in New England. It was such a beautiful town, then. Now it’s over-run by shopping malls and chain restaurants, the old mills and what they did for this town long forgotten. Many town residents don’t even know these mills exist.

“In the years before the Harwick brothers immigrated to the United States, Edgar had lived outside of England for a number of years, working as a blacksmith’s apprentice in Austria owned by a man I only know by the surname, Schmidt. I don’t know what drove him there, or what it was he did, but what I do know is it was there that Edgar developed his inspiration for what he would later accomplish.

“Anyways, Edgar had arranged for a private shop for him to be built before the construction began. Thus, before the mill even opened, Edgar began experimenting with making little toy animals, if you can consider them toys. He spent many a long night, as well as company time and resources, experimenting and modifying his own technique from what that Austrian fellow had taught him many years prior. He had set up his workshop, here in the mill, roughly right above your room here, actually, and spent more and more of his time there, making toy animals. You see, Edgar was never fond of the textile industry to begin with, it was Herbert who really drove the business forward, Herbert who had the vision and the work ethic. Though Edgar had gone along with it for a time, he had a different vision in using the company’s success to help fulfill his dream. And what Edgar saw as his own dream, Herbert saw as a useless hobby. He argued that the toys would net the company no money and that there would never be any money in it.

“You see, as detailed as they were, they weren’t statues of bronze or gold or beautiful sculptures carved from marble, Herbert saw them as cheap knock-offs of the real deal, kind of like how we view Chinese products these days, if you will. What they were actually made of, I can’t say. But no one was going to pay any kind of money for what Edgar was trying to do, and in that regard, Herbert was absolutely right.

“But he continued on in private, working only at night when his brother had gone home, until at last, he had his first success. This very mouse was the very first toy he made, sometime around 1904, and he gave it to my grandfather, Benjamin, when he was only a young lad of five or six. Needless to say, Herbert found out that his brother had indeed continued to work on his toy-making, supposedly saying what Edgar was doing was disturbing, and threatened him. He woud have to dismantle his workshop, or get ejected from the company altogether. Edgar begged for him to reconsider, but he did not, and he was given a week to comply.

“Herbert died in an accident, right here in the mill only a few days later, before the news of the disagreements between the brothers could become more public knowledge. And though Edgar was never considered in any investigation, some of us know better. That he murdered his own brother so he could pursue his dream,” she smiled softly, as if condoning her great-grandfather’s actions, and Kelly got an uneasy feeling from that smile, but brushed it off. She was intrigued.

“Go on,” Kelly said, leaning against the wall at the top of the stairs.

“I’m not sure I should. You see, most of the rest can only be considered a rumor. Little fact meddled with mostly fiction. I will go on, but only if you promise to keep this between just us girls.”

“I’m not a journalist. I won’t be twisting your words and reporting it to the world the way I want them to see it.”

“Very well then,” she cleared her throat. “What I do know is that a few weeks later, Edgar’s very first human statue was produced, that of none other but the late Herbert Harwick. He’d done it out of spite, of course, but he’d done it nonetheless, and he realized that if he couldn’t do it to make money, he would at least do it for his own enjoyment, and no one was there to stop him or tell him what to do. Rumor would have it that he exhumed Herbert’s body, and used his very body as the foundation for the statue, covering him in some kind of tar that made him look and feel like a metallic statue when it hardened. It was said that was how all of his products were made, and was how a novice like himself with little metal-working experience was able to make such accurate and detailed works of art. Ignorance at it’s best, of course, for no one could possibly accept that he knew something they did not. It was even said that he went around, murdering those he didn’t like or who got in his way and turned them into statues. Rubbish, of course, but it does make a good story, as morbid as it may be.”

There was a loud bump coming from above them, as if a table had fallen over. Kelly raised her nearly empty tea mug with an expression on her face that said ‘see what I mean?’ But the expression on Melinda’s face remained solemn, one that seemed to blame Kelly for the interruption of her story, not the noise that had actually caused it.

“Anyways, Herbert had left the business in good shape, and it was able to run with minimal effort from Edgar thereafter. Regardless of how they were actually made, he continued to make human statues, mostly of random people, or maybe people that never existed at all. He did make them of both his wife, who died of the flu, and teenage daughter, who drowned, both of whom sadly passed before his time. Edgar died in November 1920, a few months before the birth of his grandson, my father, also an Edgar. He left the business, and the secrets of his hobby, with my Grandfather, Benjamin. It was he who made the statue of Edgar himself, the very one that now sits in my lobby, along with that of Herbert, Edgar’s first statue. And though Ben too made several others and carried on the tradition for a time, he died suddenly in a car accident in 1929, thirteen years before I was born. Coupled with the Great Depression, Harwick Brothers began it’s rapid downwards spiral and was closed for good in 1932, long before my young father could learn the ways of things. So the business died with my grandfather, as did the family tradition in making these beautiful statues. But they’re all still here, a testament to the will of Edgar Harwick.”

Kelly was wide-eyed and Melinda had a look of satisfaction about her.

“I’m sorry. I’m sure that story won’t allow you to rest easier or help you get over your cold, any time soon, but truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve told anyone the full story and I feel better after telling it. Thank you for listening, and thank you for finding Wiggles.”

“Oh,” Kelly said, assuming she was referring to the mouse. “Sure thing.” She was going to ask Melinda how she knew she was feeling crappy, but supposed between the bags under her eyes and the sniffling, her body spoke for itself. Melinda was a sharp woman who didn’t miss a beat, even if she pretended to.

“I’m sorry, I came here to check up on you. Is there anything I can do for you?”

Kelly had already mentioned the noises, had already gotten an unsatisfactory answer and probably the best one she was going to get without going up there herself. And now that she heard the story, she really didn’t want to ask why there were noises coming from where Edgar’s private shop used to be. Or perhaps, still was. She decided to mention the windows instead. “It’s drafty in here, even with the heat cranked up. It’s always cold downstairs, and the draft actually blows my hair when I’m walking up the stairs. And in the upstairs windows, these ones here, there are actually gaps in-between the window frame and the brick walls in places.”

Melinda paused, as if considering. “If your mother ever taught you how to eat, you might welcome a little breeze,” she said, a thin smile forming on her lips. Kelly wasn’t sure whether to take it as a compliment or an insult, but decided it had been Melinda’s idea of a joke, and that it was probably meant to be both. Kelly smiled softly, unsure if she was supposed to or not, before Melinda continued. “I’ll ensure your windows get some fitted plastic molding to help resolve your issue. That should definitely warm it up in here some, it certainly did for Mr. Johnson down the hall, who complained of the same issue last winter. I do apologize for the inconvience. Is there anything else?”

“No. No, I guess that’s it really. I’m just…well, I’ll get used to it.”

“Yes, Kelly. Moving into a new and unfamiliar place is never easy. Despite whatever may be troubling you in your life, such a drastic change in lifestyle so suddenly can be a shock to the body. Especially here. It’s like taking a step back into history, to over a century ago. It certainly gives me that vibe, and you’re probably getting it too, whether you know it or not. But you’ll settle quite nicely. It might take a month or two, but you will.”

“You’re probably right,” Kelly said.

“I must get going,” Melinda said. “I’ll just leave Wiggles here with you for collateral. You keep him safe for now, and when your little draft issue is resolved, I will come and reclaim him. Deal?”

“Uh, yeah. Deal.” They shook on it, and Kelly wanted to tell her to take the damn rodent with her, but held back. She did want to have her windows fixed before winter came, and thought that rejecting the notion may offend Melinda and she would freeze to death this winter.

Kelly opened the door for her guest, to which she was not uttered a thanks, and Melinda was gone as swiftly as she had come. Sighing in relief, Kelly dead-bolted the door, top and bottom, and looked at the mouse that was once again in her hands. It had a very eerie presence to it now, and she strongly considered running down to the lobby and giving Melinda the mouse back, telling her how she wasn’t worthy of such a historical artifact or something to that effect.

She had never opened the inconveniently-placed hatchway above the landing of the stairs before, but decided now would be an ideal time.

Standing on the desk chair she placed on the landing, Kelly began prying at the hatch, and found it was more stubborn than she had anticipated. Alas, after several moments, the wooden hatchway door popped open and she was greeted with a blast of cool air.

The claustrophobic crawlspace was just big enough for her to crawl through and turn around on her hands and knees, if she so desired, and though it couldn’t go too far, she was unable to see exactly how far back it went without a light, and it did not have a switch built in that she could see. She couldn’t think of a more suitable place for a creepy little mouse, so she popped it in and, with less difficulty than it took to remove it, put the hatch cover back on, making sure it was nice and secure before she stepped back, satisfied. This way it would be both protected and out-of-sight. She could use the former as an excuse if Melinda ever came by asking where it was.

Outside, the storm began to pick up, and Kelly realized just how sleepy she was. She eyed the reading chair in the corner and made her way over, and snuggled into the chair, throwing the blanket on top of her. She listened to the rain pattering against the windows, and for the first time since she moved in, she slept for more than eight hours.

*****
The loud noise of something crashing onto the floor had woken her out of a sound sleep, and Kelly sat up in the chair with a start, knocking the book resting in her lap onto the floor. The apartment was almost completely dark, the little light the storm allowed through the windows barely enough to light up the room more than a foot from the wall. Save for the light from the microwave clock, she could see nothing on the opposite side of the apartment where she’d thought the noise had come from.

Kelly listened hard for a moment, without moving, and not for the first time that day, she had the sense that she was being watched. But after a brief moment of waiting and hearing nothing but wind and rain against the windows, she risked getting out of the chair. She stretched her arms and legs, placing herself in front of one of the windows as she did so, and she started shivering. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she nervously toyed with the zipper at her neck, and turning towards the floor lamp in the opposite living room corner but she knew she was more likely to trip over her crap than reach the lamp without injuring herself. She headed towards the kitchen instead, her eyes seeing well enough so that she only bumped into one box, the one that contained the rest of her books, on the way there, cursing to herself as she did so.

Turning on the overhead light in-between the sink and the small island, she looked around the kitchen to see what had fallen. Whatever it was had been too loud and too close to be in the room above her, whatever it was, it was somewhere here in apartment 123. But there was nothing on the kitchen floor that looked out of place. She poured herself a glass of water, leaning against the counter. It ws just her mind over-exaggerating the noises she was hearing, making her think they were something other than they actually were. Placing the glass into the sink, she decided nothing might make her feel better than some time out of this apartment. It was too late for the pool and exercise room to be open, but just a nice walk up and down the halls might be good therapy.

Flicking off the kitchen light and the stairwell light on, she bent down at the top of the stairs to put her sneakers on, and then stopped short when she saw the black hole in the wall to her left, level with her head.

Her eyes shifted up a little to where the dark hatchway was now opened, then down at the landing where the panel lay, and swallowed hard. She had put the panel in quite securely, she was certain, and she froze in fear, unable to look directly at the hole in the wall for a second look. She didn’t only feel someone was in there, watching her, she knew. And they..or it…was done hiding.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw two large hands emerge from the dark hole, gripping either side of the hatchway, and the low-pitch grunt was enough to confirm she wasn’t going crazy and that was what freed her legs from their paralysis.

She dashed towards the door, a mere five feet in front of her. She undid the two deadbolts faster than she had ever done anything in her life, and though the doorknob turned in her hand, the door refused to open. Something was blocking it. She screamed in terror as she pulled on the knob as it slowly began to budge as the thing heavily walking up each step, breathing loudly. Then the thing was right behind her.

The cold hand got hold of the back of her jacket collar, pulling her off her feet and away from the door with supernatural strength and speed. Kelly struggled, swinging her arms wildly, knocking something out of the attacker’s hand as she did so, the object falling onto the tile. Without loosening it’s grip, her attacker slammed her body on the ground at the top of the stairs, where she had paused to put her shoes on. It quickly managed to get both arms pinned behind her back, and kept her body forced to the ground, his inhumanly gigantic hand wrapped almost entirely around the circumfurance of her neck. Unable to breathe, Kelly did have her legs free and kicked him in the back frantically, but he seemed unaffected, and despite her urge to panic, she knew it would only be a waste of her energy.
There was something on the ground to the left only a foot away from her face, and despite her situation, she was aware she had knocked something out of his hands, and had hope that it was a knife or something she could use as a weapon.

And when she saw it, she realized it was not a weapon at all. It was the mouse. The thing must have found it in the crawlspace. If she could wiggle her left arm free, she could grab it, and maybe, just maybe drive it’s face into his eye or something, giving her enough time to escape his deadly grasp. Ushering what little strength remained within her, she managed to free her arm and she went for it, but six inches before she could even reach the mouse, his much larger hand grabbed her by the wrist and held her arm there, incidentally knocking the mouse further away, causing it to roll right-side up.

The mouse had a chip in it’s back, just above the tail, assumably forming when it had fallen onto the tile, and Kelly’s already wide eyes grew wider still. Even in the low light, she could see the unmistakable strands of hair where it had cracked open.

Kelly’s senses rapidly began to fade, and as she slipped into unconsciousness, her discovery of the secrets the mouse revealed the last thought she would ever have. Long after she was still, the big man kept his grip firm around her neck, the dead girl’s wide eyes remaining transfixed on the mouse.

The massive, calloused hand gently scooped up the mouse and held it in the palm of his hand, staring at it with equal awe and respect as Melinda had earlier that day, tenderly rubbing the crack with his finger. After a long moment of doing so, he carefully placed the fine specimen in his pocket.

In the following hours, throughout apartment 123 and 121, if either had a tenant, mysterious noises could be heard between bouts of hollowing wind. In the walls behind the kitchen of 123, the sounds of something dragging across wood, the creaking of a door behind the hatchway that was once again covered as it had been before, and the noise of someone heavy ascending a staircase. And amongst sounds produced by the rattling of windows caused by heavy winds and the creaking of pipes, one could also hear the sounds from a room that hadn’t been heard in many long years.

*Two Months Later*

Richard Jones stepped off the treadmill and sat on the bench in the corner of the room, fetching his his towel, wiping the sweat from his brow. He’d only been here for a few days, but the exercise room was something he was certainly going to get used to.

Richard bent down next to the statue in the exercise room. It was of a young woman in a sweatsuit doing a torso stretch, with one hand behind her back, the other stretched across her body, and one leg bent up over the other, which lay flat. He studied the face, and the very detailed clothing the life-like statue was wearing. Though the girl was pretty, the statue gave him the heebie-jeebies.

He supposed he was going to have to get used to it if he was going to be sharing the room with her every time he came to exercise, but if it were up to him, he’d throw every last one of the damn things in the dumpster.

Richard threw the towel over his shoulder, grabbed his gym bag, and headed back to apartment 123.

Credit To – P. R. Harving

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The Good People

September 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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One hot summer, an unnaturally hot summer for my province actually, my friend Heather invited a few of her girlfriends out to her family’s cabin a few hours away from the city.

Going to the cabin in the summer is one of the most favored things for people who live on this rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Newfoundland is Canada’s most eastern province, and the most easterly point in all of North America. Heathers family owned a cabin on a little island about 5 hours away from the capital of St. John’s. A ferry ran twice a day across the bay to bring you over and take you back to the small community of less than 150 people. She brought three of us along that summer, her girlfriend Sarah, Jackie, and me.

The island where her cabin is located is small, and the community smaller. There aren’t a whole lot of people around and I was told it would be hard to get lost in the woods because of the size of the place, so it was perfect for the exploring Heather was excited to do. She knew there were tons of old houses out in the woods, but at that point hadn’t been able to go check them out. We were planning on staying there for a week. We left on a Sunday and on the following Saturday Heathers parents were coming to stay at the cabin for another week. We had a lot of time to relax, swim, sunbathe, smoke too much weed and eat way too much food.

On Wednesday we were taking a walk through the “downtown” of the community (downtown is a serious exaggeration, it was just where most of the houses are and where the ferry docks) when a family friend waved us over to his lawn to ask us how things were going. Heather knew him well and they were chatting about family, how the summer was going, if her father had got a moose yet, you know, the basic stuff, when Heather mentioned to him that she was interested in exploring the woods a bit. Her friend furrowed his brow and warned her that even though the island was small, the woods were surprisingly easy to get lost in.
“You watch it now, Heather. You knows these woods are teeming with the good people,” he said, giving the rest of us a little side wink. Heather laughed and patted his shoulder.
“Dad warned me all about them coming out here when I was a kid, I know all about the fairies and I also know not a damn one of us have had any trouble with them, so I think we’ll be ok,” she replied, “but I’ll put a piece of bread in my pocket just in case.”

Now, fairies. They are a weird Newfoundland thing brought over from our English and Irish ancestors. At the time I was in university majoring in folklore so (I thought) I knew all about them. I was beyond excited to hear them mentioned; it’s a dying belief here and isn’t really taken seriously anymore. It’s hard to find anyone who even knows about them these days, let alone anyone who would actually warn us about them, and call them by their old name, “the good people.” I know what you’re thinking… who the hell would be afraid of fairies of all things? But these aren’t the cute tinkerbell fairies with wings and magic dust and cute shit. The ones around here are a different kind of fairy all together. This is something that I would learn the hard way.

After Heather said her goodbyes, Jackie asked her what the piece of bread was all about. “They say a piece of bread in your pocket keeps you safe from them,” she replied with a grin.
Jackie gave me the side eye, “are you serious?” she asked, “safe from what?”
“You’ve really never heard of the fairies before?” I asked her, not being able to stop my smart ass from being superior in my wealth of folklore knowledge. “They lead you off into the woods and shit and make you lost, steal your babies and generally fuck you up. Little gnarly old guys who dance around rocks and think it’s a fun time to kill your animals and create mischief where ever they can. ”
Jackie rolled her eyes at me. “Ok miss paranormal expert, go get your degree in ghosts already,” she gave me a playful shove.

We reached the top of a hill that overlooked the “downtown” area and the beach. Heather pointed in the opposite direction, “and that’s where we’re going after lunch, ladies. Right into the woods!”
“Will our phones work out there? You know your way around out there, right babe?” Sarah asked her, frowning at her iphone, “I only have 1 bar right now.”
“Nah it probably won’t but we’ll be fine, we won’t go so far in we might get lost. I’ll just climb a fuckin tree and look for a house, not like this place is big,” she replied. Heather was the most adventurous and bravest of us all, I could see the excitement buzzing in her. We wouldn’t be able to say no to this idea, all of us knew that. So we put on our hiking gear and off we went.

The first hour or so was uneventful. We weren’t just wandering aimlessly, there ended up being a labyrinth of old trails and ATV tracks we could follow. I loved hiking so I was soaking up the sounds and smells of the woods, when Heather yelled out to us from further up the path. “You guys! Oh man, come here! Come look!”
We rounded the turn and came right up to a house. It was like the trail led right to it. It was old, obviously abandoned, just seemingly sitting right in the middle of the woods with a small, over grown front lawn that was lined with a falling down white picket fence. It was a salt box style house that is extremely common in Newfoundland, at one point in time basically all the houses looked like this one. The paint was peeling, one of the windows on the top floor was boarded up, and the old wooden front door was hanging off its hinges.
“Look at this beauty! Holy fuck we hit the motherload with this one, there’s still stuff inside!” Heather could barely contain her excitement as she peered in through the windows.

We entered through the open front door and began looking around. The house wasn’t big. It had a small sitting room, a dining room and kitchen on the bottom floor. Old, dusty furniture and random knick knacks were still scattered throughout, and wallpaper peeled from the walls. Jackie and I were looking at some faded and worn out pictures on the wall while Sarah was standing awkwardly in the middle of the dining room, biting her lip. I could tell she was feeling uncomfortable.
“Relax babe, no one is here and it’s only 2 o’clock, there’s tons of sunlight left. Look at all this stuff, this is wild!” Heather exclaimed as she inspected a very large old record player against the wall.
“I dunno I just feel… weird in this place,” Sarah replied as her eyes wandered around the room uncomfortably.
“That’s cause its old as fuck and probably about to fall at any moment,” Jackie teased. Heather shot her a disapproving look but I laughed. Sarah was the most anxious of us all, I wasn’t much better but I was feeling surprisingly ok, I was too interested and preoccupied in all the cool old stuff to worry about anything just yet. At once Heather decided she wanted to check out the top floor.
“Well I’m not going up there. Why is it so dark?” Sarah asked as she wrapped her arms around herself and glared up the stairs.
“That must be from the boarded up window,” I guessed, but I was feeling pretty uncomfortable going up there myself. Fuck that, I can admit to being a wimp just fine. Old houses are creepy, and it was really dark up there. I wasn’t interested in seeing any ghosts or falling through the floor. Heather however, was all about it, and the rest of us reluctantly agreed to follow her up.

“I don’t understand why it’s so dark up here, I thought only one window was boarded up,” I said as arrived at the top of the stairs. There was a room to our left but the door was jammed, so we went down the short hallway that led to the front of the house. The boarded up window was at the end of the hallway, but I noticed there was no window at all in a child’s room we had entered. Heather and Jackie were looking excitedly through a box of toys, talking about the weird old shit, while I glanced around the room. It was small, only big enough to have a small toddler sized bed, a toy box, and a bookshelf.
“This is too creepy you guys, I wanna leave,” Sarah said, her brows furrowed.
“Nooo babe c’mon this is so cool!” Heather pleaded, “What are you so afraid of? There’s no one here but us.” Sarah shifted uncomfortably, admitting defeat. Jackie stopped what she was doing and looked around slowly, “Did you guys hear that?”
My heart jumped in my chest. “What?” I asked, “Don’t say shit like that in here please, stop freaking us out.”
“No seriously,” she said and stood up. “I thought for sure I heard someone call my name.” I bit my lip, wondering if I should believe her or assume she was trying to scare us. “I don’t know…”
Then I heard it, very very softly, someone call my name. It was so soft and so far away sounding though, that I wasn’t sure I had heard it at all. I blinked and looked at the others. They were standing still as could be, and I could see fear in Sarahs eyes. “It was my name that time,” she almost whispered.
“But-” I started to reply, when Heather cut me off.
“Nah you guys, you’re just freaking yourselves out. Maybe we should leave before you start convincing yourselves of other shit,” Heather said, obviously annoyed. But I could tell the tone in the room had changed dramatically. We agreed to leave.

When we got outside I felt almost instantly better. “I think the air in there was fucking with us, the place is moldy and smelly, old places will do tha-“ Jackie stopped abruptly, “what the fuck? Where is the trail?”
I looked ahead. The trail we came in from was no longer there. It was just thick trees and bushes. I gaped, my eyes wide. How is that possible? We were just out here and the trail was right in front of us.
Heather laughed nervously. “See you guys are all freaked out now and you know that just makes things worse. The trail is there, just hold on.” She went over to where the trail was supposed to be and tried to push through the bushes. “It’s here, we’re just… it’s just… “ She trailed off as she frantically pushed through tree limbs and thick brush. My heart sank. I was confused. The trail was RIGHT THERE. It brought us right to the house. But as we looked forward from the picket fence, it was like the house was smack dab in the middle of the woods with nothing leading to it at all.
Heather came out of the brush, “There’s… it’s just woods… ok no one panic yet, let’s look over here.”
We followed her around the house and to the backyard. “Look! See, there’s a trail! Ha!” Heather exclaimed as she pointed to a gate at the end of the backyard. Sure enough, there was a trail there. We breathed a sigh of relief. I still didn’t know what the hell happened out front, but I decided I shouldn’t think about it too much. I didn’t want to scare myself more than I already had. Before long, I could feel the tension ease a bit and we were joking and laughing just as we had before.

I took out my iphone, wondering what the time was, but to my dismay it was dead. “Aw fuck, my stupid phone died, what time is it?” I asked, stuffing my useless phone back into my pocket.
Like a cliché horror movie, Jackie and Heathers phones where somehow dead as well. We chalked it up bad reception and wonky battery percentages. But I could Sarah had tensed up.
“I didn’t even bring mine… are you guys serious? All your phones are dead?”
I looked up at the sky, “It’s okay Sarah, the sun is still up fairly high, it can’t be past 3 o’clock so we have lots of time to get back.” They all agreed, but I could tell everyone was feeling uneasy. Being out here with no way to call anyone in an emergency, well we’re the generation that just isn’t used to that kind of digital isolation. Not having a phone was making us all very uncomfortable.

Discussions turned to other things. What we were going to eat for supper that night, how we should have rolled a few joints for the hike, what we would do tomorrow, when Jackie exclaimed “oh look, I think I see a fence up there, another abandoned house maybe?” We hurried up the path to check it out.
Falling down white picket fence, peeling white paint on a saltbox house with a window boarded up on the top floor, a front door falling the hinges. “Oh you have to be fucking kidding me,” I said, confused yet again. It was the same damn house. We had walked in a circle for what must have been an hour.
“But, but… how? We walked in a circle? We couldn’t have, I…” Sarah was stammering but Heather just wrapped an arm around her and kissed her cheek softly.
“This sucks but it happens sometimes,” she said, “these trails are a maze, we must have somehow got turned around.”
“But we walked straight, we didn’t go down any other trails, Heather how-“ Sarah and Heather continued to bicker, but I was too busy staring at the house to pay attention to what they were saying. I squinted and shielded my eyes from the lowering sun. The windows were reflective, but I thought for sure I had seen movement in the upper window. My heart was beating faster than I was comfortable with and I convinced myself it was a trick of my eyes, but I noticed Jackie staring at the same window. I walked over to her.
“What are you looking at?” I asked her, worried what the reply was going to be.
“I’m losing it dude, I thought I saw something in the window up there. Something white, like a kid maybe, I don’t know I don’t see anything anymore, forget it,” Jackie turned around and walked back towards Heather and Sarah. I followed her.
“I don’t like this Heather,” I said, starting to feel really uneasy.
“Don’t sweat it. Look, the trail was here the whole time. We must have just not noticed it when we left the first time. The trail in the backyard leads back to the house, which makes sense, so this time we just go down the trail we came from and we’ll be back to the cabin smoking a big bat in no time,” she smiled at me. She was still pretty calm, still being silly old Heather. I felt better. She was right. The path behind the house would most likely lead back to the property if we weren’t paying attention. The woods were playing tricks on us.

The mood was getting more somber though, Heather tried to pick up our spirits but at that point we wanted nothing more than to just get back to Heathers cabin. Heather and Sarah took the lead, paying far more attention to where we were going this time and making sure we weren’t getting turned around again. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and the further we went the more my stomach knotted.
Suddenly, Heather stopped in her tracks and put a finger in the air to signal us to do the same. We stopped. “What?” Sarah asked, frowning.
“I thought I heard someone call my name,” she said, straining to listen. We did the same.
“I don’t hear-“I started to say, but then, I heard it. Someone shout out my name. Not too far off like before, but much closer. My heart leapt into my throat.
“Who is that? Who out here even knows my name?” Jackie said looking around, “Hello!” she called out.
The rest of us looked confused. “But… I heard my name,” Sarah said, “No one called your name Jackie, I heard someone call out Sarah.”
This was not good. I couldn’t hide the fear on my face, and neither could the others. No one said anything; we understood each of us had heard our own name being called. It felt like we stood there for a long time, just waiting. Then I heard it again, like it was someone in the distance but still close by, call my name again. I couldn’t tell what direction it was coming from and it sounded… wrong. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, child or adult. It made my hair stand up and my chest flutter. I saw the color drain from mt friends faces.
“Let’s go,” Heather said, and started to walk briskly down the path again. We tried to catch up to her but Heather was taller and faster than the rest of us, and soon she was out of sight.
“Wait up!” Sarah called out, but a few seconds later we saw that she was stopped on the path again just ahead of us. “It… that can’t be,” she stammered.
I didn’t see it at first. But looking up higher, at the tree line, I could see that damn house again. At this point I didn’t think my heart could beat any faster, but it did. How could this be happening? How did we go in a circle again when we were being so careful this time?
“What the fuck Heather, what the fuck?” Jackie was yelling, “How the hell did we walk in a circle again?”
Heather was shaking her head. I’ve never seen her look scared before. Heather was always the level headed one of all us, boasting about going on random adventures and never losing her cool even when she ran into trouble. I felt at that moment we were fucked. We were dead lost and we would be out here for god only knows how long with no food and not enough water. At that moment the fairies came back into my mind and I believed in that moment that they were very fucking real, and they were screwing with us.

I could see Sarah was on the verge of tears, and Heather wrapped her arm around her again and told her it was ok, and that they would find their way home, and not to worry. Jackie and I just stood awkwardly in the path, not knowing what to say or what to do. We didn’t want to go near the house again. So we just stood there while Heather calmed Sarah down until it was starting to get dark.
“We need to move,” Jackie finally said. I agreed. We weren’t going to get out of here just standing around.
“Okay, this time we follow the sun. It’s setting, we know if we follow it we’ll be going in one direction and we can’t get turned around again,” Heather said. Off we went again. This time, none of us said a word. We were scared, we were hungry, and we were just getting pissed off.

It was getting dangerously close to being dark by the time Sarah spotted the house again. This time she just burst into tears, unable to control herself any longer. I felt the tears stinging my eyes and a hard lump in my throat myself. I wrinkled my nose as I tried to fight it back. Jackie swore and began yelling at Heather.
“What the fuck Heather? How is this possible? You said we wouldn’t get lost, you said it was impossible. You said you would climb a fucking tree if you had, to so climb a tree Heather! Climb a tree and find a way out, you got us into this. Holy shit this is so fucked up.” Heather just took Jackie’s strong words and said nothing while she bit her lip.
“Okay,” she replied when Jackie was done, and started to look for a high and stable tree to find. Almost all the trees in Newfoundland forests are conifers; pine, spruce, and fir trees. Not exactly that easy to climb. But at that point Heather was desperate, and she struggled to climb through the dense branches that cracked easily under her weight. Somehow she managed to get near the top and she looked around.
“There!” she shouted out pointing in the opposite direction of the house, “There’s a light over that way, I can see it!” She slid down excitedly. We started to jog in the direction, fighting our way through thick trees and ignoring the cuts the brush was giving us. I didn’t care anymore. I just needed to get away from that house and out of these woods.

We stumbled into a clearing and I heard Sarah moan loudly. I looked up. We were at the back of the house this time.
“That is fucking impossible, impossible! It was just behind us!” Heather had her hands to her head in disbelief. I just gaped. I couldn’t think straight. My breathing started to become rapid and uneven, my eyes began to cloud over. “How? How? How?” Repeated in my head. How was this happening? At this point we were all crying, none of us able to fight it back any longer. Even Heather had tears streaming down her face as she tried to calm Sarah down who was downright sobbing. We sat down in the grass behind the backyard fence, feeling defeated. It was more or less completely dark now, we had been in the woods for more than 8 hours by this time and I was tired. My stomach was in knots, my chest felt tight and painful. None of us knew what to do.

Suddenly, Sarah gasped and pointed in front of her.
“What is, wha- wha- wha-“ she stammered. My heart flew into my throat. I turned around.
At the edge of the clearing, near the side of the house maybe 20 feet from us, I could barely make out a shape. It was all white, or maybe it was grey, in the shape and size of a small child. It looked like a human and it was completely naked, but it had no characteristics. Its face was blank and between its legs was smooth like a doll. Nothing, it was like a completely blank person. It was standing casually with its arm out leaning against a tree when it turned its head to look at us. I heard the others gasp behind me, and then we ran. We got up and tore ass out of there.
But it felt like we ran for only a few seconds when I bumped into Heather in front of me. She had stopped dead in her tracks, her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide. “What-“ I started to say, until I realized the house was right in front of us again. My mind buzzed, I felt like I was going to fall over.

We weren’t alone this time. Making a circle around the house, were a large group of these blank people. They were… well, I hesitate to say dancing, because it wasn’t really dancing. It was more like twitching and shaking. Their limbs looked like they were filled with liquid as their arms wiggled around their sides. Their legs stomped back and forth as they moved their white blank bodies, heads shaking and their whole body twitching in a way that made my blood run cold. They looked human but these were not human movements. Human limbs don’t bend or move that way, and they can’t jerk around that quickly either. None of us said anything, none of us screamed. We just stood there, transfixed on these creatures completely unable to process what we were seeing. My whole body felt frozen, my legs were jelly and a scream was trying to escape from my throat but it just couldn’t make it out.

Then, the creatures all stopped. They stopped and stood perfectly still, and in complete unison they turned and looked directly at us. That was when we ran. I ran as fast and as hard as I ever have. We ran with tears streaming down our faces until I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and my lungs were on fire. I didn’t know it was possible that I could even run like that. My mind was blank. The only thing I could focus on was Jackie who was directly in front of me, I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t feel anything. I just ran.

It felt like we ran for hours when we reached a clearing and I saw a street light. I burst into sobbing tears, I couldn’t control it any longer. My whole body was shaking and I fell to the ground. Jackie held me, we all cried together sat in the grass on the side of the road with a streetlight glaring down at us. We were out.

After we had composed ourselves, we began slowly making our way back to Heathers cabin. We were exhausted, everything hurt. We walked back without saying a word to each other. As we reached the driveway, we noticed the lights were on in the cabin and there was another car in the driveway. It was Heathers parents. They were casually sitting on the back deck, listening to music and drinking beers. Her mom jumped up as soon as we came into sight.
“Where were you? My lord Heather what mess were you in now?” She gasped, looking at all us cut and bruised with puffy eyes.
“What are you guys doing here?” was all she managed to say in reply.
“You knew we were coming today. Where in the world were you?”
“But… mom it’s only Wednesday.”
“It’s Saturday Heather, were you guys out on a bender in the woods? Are you ok? You’re all a mess!”

None of us said a word. We couldn’t. If we talked about it then that meant it was all real. I don’t know what happened to those 3 lost days we had in those woods. What I do know, is that I was completely wrong about fairies. They are nothing like the old folktales say. They are not little old guys with pointy hats that prance merrily around rocks, or cute little girls with wings. They are so much worse than that.

It has been many years and I still haven’t come to terms with what happened. Writing this has been a struggle. But maybe now, after writing it all down and admitting that it happened, maybe I’ll be able to hike through the woods again. Maybe I’ll stop hearing my name being called out in the distance. Maybe I’ll stop seeing those blank faces staring into my bedroom window at night. Maybe.

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On The Short Walk

September 3, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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My house doesn’t have a garage. Instead, it has an undercover car port. The front door is at the opposite end of my house to the car port. Once I park my car it’s a short walk from the car port to the front door. On the short walk, because my house sits on a slight hill, I have a view of the property across the street. It’s been vacant for a while now. Last night, though, on the short walk, I saw a light on inside.

This morning, on the short walk from my front door to my car, I quickly took stock of the house. It appeared to be vacant. There were no cars parked in the car port or on the street outside. The tall, neglected grass swayed in the gentle morning wind and the brown, paint-chipped picket fence had a precarious lean, as if it would topple if the gentle gust graduated to anything greater. As for the house, a single-storey brick with sun-faded orange roof tiles, it studied me with its four eyes, the blinds drawn on each, as I studied it. It was like one of those paintings where the eyes are on you wherever you are in the room. Its four eyes followed me the whole way on the short walk but there didn’t appear to be any life behind them.

That night I parked my car and began the short walk to the door with my mind still at work. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my journey that I realized the light flickering behind one of the windows. This time I realized the flicker, as if the source was fire rather than a lightbulb. As I moved closer to the front door I tried to recall if the light I’d seen last night had flickered the same way. I couldn’t recall. I hadn’t paid close enough attention. As I entered my house, I heard the muffled sound of a hammer at work across the street. I figured that I did have new neighbors.

The next morning the house looked exactly as it had the previous day. As I walked the short walk, looking over at the property, I saw one of the window blinds move. It looked like someone had bumped into it. They slowly rocked for a few seconds before becoming still once more. By this time I’d reached my car and I drove to work.

When I got home that night my mind hadn’t been left at work. I’d begun thinking about the house across the street on the drive home, wondering if the flickering light would be on behind one of the windows. I saw, on the short walk, that the light was on. However, the light flickered behind every window. It was brighter behind the two centre windows and grew dimmer in the outer windows, as if the house had just one source of light. As I put my key in the front door I once again heard the muffled sound of construction across the road. The sound of my footsteps on the short walk had masked the soft sounds of labor. I didn’t look over my shoulder. I’m not the overly-nosey-neighbor type. I went inside and locked the door.

The next morning I realized that the blinds were gone. Their disappearance didn’t provide a passerby with a peek inside because the windows had been painted a dark maroon. On the short walk I also noticed a mound of dirt beside the house. A shovel stuck out of the ground next to it. I got in my car and drove to work.

That night I saw, on the short walk, a sign of life and not just a hint. A red truck sat on the street outside the house with its cabin raised. A figure hidden by the darkness was working on the engine. The streetlight on that side of the street was out but the one outside of my house was working fine. The figure working on the truck was wearing protective goggles. He looked up at me and the fluorescent beam of the streetlight hit them and bounced off in my direction. It was like a nocturnal animal studying me. I raised my hand in a polite wave and the figure just continued to watch me. It then went back to working on the engine without even a nod of acknowledgement. I quickly went inside, glad to be out of sight.

The next morning the truck was gone and so was the mound of dirt. The dilapidated fence had been replaced with a sturdy chain-link deterrence, double the height of the old one. The house watched me with its four empty eye sockets all the way to my car.

When I got home from work the truck was back and the streetlight still hadn’t been fixed. As I neared my front door I heard the sound of a basketball bouncing on the hard surface of the road. I looked over my shoulder and saw a group of streetwalkers, their age hidden by the night. I didn’t hang around outside to see if they were coming or going because my neighborhood wasn’t the safest. As I retreated inside I heard one of them shake a spray can.

The next morning the truck was parked in the same spot as the night before. Across the back of the trailer, sprayed in blue paint, was: ‘PIG FU’. The next letter was half completed but it was pretty easy to tell that the artist had intended it to be a C. But the artist had been stopped halfway and they’d left their spray can behind. It lay on its side against the truck’s back wheel. My imagination offered me an explanation involving the streetwalkers and the figure that I’d seen working on the truck. I turned my mind to work and got in my car.

When I returned home that night, as I pulled into my driveway, I saw that the truck’s cabin was raised again. On the short walk I tried to see if the figure was working on the engine. Movement at the back of the truck caught my eye and the figure appeared. I looked away but could still see the streetlight reflected on his goggles. Then, as I moved closer to my front door, I noticed the figure moving across the street to my house. I fastened my walk when I saw the long wrench in his hand shimmer when it caught the light. I kept the approaching figure in the corner of my eye but made sure not to look directly at them. I fumbled with my keys at the door, praying not to hear the tap of shoes walking up the path behind me. I got inside and closed the door behind me. I waited for a knock that didn’t come. My curiosity bested my fear and I peeked through the eyehole. There was no sign of anyone on the street.

The next morning I was a little reluctant to leave the safety of my house and make the short walk to my car. But it was day time and that convinced me that I wouldn’t see anything unsettling across the street. With this assuring thought I stepped out of the house and began the short walk to the car. As much as I didn’t want to look, my curiosity was like a fishhook and the fisherman was standing across the street slowly reeling in the line, making my head turn slowly in the house’s direction. As if the figure had been waiting for me to look over, the front door opened as soon as my eyes fell on it and they emerged from within. I knew it was the figure I’d seen working on the truck because of the goggles. The sun reflected off the lenses and, like the streetlight, didn’t allow me to make eye contact. There was no way to tell what gender they were because the top of their head was covered by a black engineer’s cap, the goggles obscured their eyes and their lower-face was covered by the large collar of the thick black overcoat that hid the rest of their body, the bottom disappearing into the long grass. They raised a hand and directed my attention to the open front door, offering for me to come inside. I tapped my watch. signaling that I was running late and quickly walked to my car. They dropped their hands and just stood there in the long grass. Like the house, they watched me all the way to the car.

I thought about the morning’s short walk all day at work. When it was time to go home, I contemplated not going home. I thought about it for quite some time in the car park of my office building before deciding to go home. I had nowhere else to go. Besides, home was safe. It was that short walk from the car to the door where I was vulnerable. If anything happened involving the engineer – I’d gotten to calling them the engineer because of the hat – I’d get inside and call the police. It sounded like a good plan.

I pulled into the driveway that night and looked over my shoulder at the house across the street, making sure the engineer didn’t have a head start on me. If I’d seen him out on the street, I would have turned the car back on and gotten out of there. I took a deep breath, got my house key ready in my hand so as not to waste a second at the door finding it, and started the short walk. I kept the corner of my eye peeled for any movement. When I reached my front door and nothing out of the ordinary had happened, I felt, strangely, let down. I’d been so sure that something was going to happen. I’d felt it in my gut. The hairs on the back of my neck had stood up for no reason. I looked over at the house across the street and it appeared as it had on the first morning after I’d seen a light on in one of the windows. The property seemed to be devoid of life. Even the red truck was gone. I inserted the key into my front door and unlocked it. As I pushed it open, I looked over my shoulder to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I turned back as I stepped inside and collided with the engineer.

The engineer stood just inside the doorway and my nose touched one of the lenses of his goggles. When the realization set in, that I had an intruder inside my house, fright threw me back and I tripped over the doorsill. I landed on the pathway outside and looked up at the engineer as he emerged from my house. In the glow cast by my front light, I saw what the goggles were protecting: nothing. There was just darkness behind the lenses. I crawled backwards for a few meters as the thing that wasn’t human moved towards me. I picked myself up off the ground and turned for my car.

A glow caught the attention of my peripheral vision and my curiosity turned my head towards it as I ran. The door to the house across the street was wide open and the flicker of a flame danced just inside. I should have continued running to my car but I stopped. I changed my course and began walking towards the open door. I wanted to get in my car and drive away but the want to see inside the house was stronger. The engineer stepped up beside me as we crossed the road and I felt a supportive hand on my back. It didn’t say anything; I’m not too sure if it could. It guided me past the chain-link fence, through the long grass and to the door. I discovered that the flickering light was a large chandelier holding numerous wax candles.

I could feel the engineer pushing me on the back slightly but not hard enough to force me inside. He wanted me to step inside but when I saw the pit I didn’t want to. The house was just a shell hiding the pit beyond its walls. But I don’t think that ‘pit’ is the right word because a pit has a visible bottom. I couldn’t see the bottom but I could see hundreds of shimmering eyes catching the flame of the chandelier. When I think back on it now, I think they were goggles, not eyes.

Suddenly the want to drive away was stronger than my curiosity. But the engineer had his hand on my back and the force behind it was getting stronger. Before it could push me inside I pushed back on the doorframe. The force behind both our efforts grew until it was an aggressive battle. Then I had an idea that saved my life that night from the pit. I purposely fell straight to the ground, catching the engineer off balance and he toppled through the doorway and into the pit. The want to get in my car and never return was greater than the want to look over into the pit to see if the engineer was gone. So, I ran to my car and drove away.

The next morning, in the early hours, a sinkhole swallowed the entire street. My coworkers were shocked when I showed up to work in the clothes I’d been wearing the day before. I’d had nowhere else to go. I explained that a night out drinking had saved my life. It wasn’t a lie. I had spent the rest of the night drinking. They were interested by my story for only minutes because special coverage of the sinkhole was playing out on the morning news and had all their interests grabbed.

I spent the morning in my cubicle browsing for apartments to rent. I couldn’t bring myself to work. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone the truth because they wouldn’t believe me.

On the short walk from my cubicle to he water cooler I pass the lunch room. Through the window I can see the TV. At the moment it’s on and showing an aerial shot of the sinkhole. The large black eye watches me as I watch it, wondering. Did the engineer create the hole or did the hole create the engineer? I’m curious to know. I’ll continue to peek on the updates every time I go to get a drink. Though, if I see something I don’t like, I’ll run.

Until then I’ll just watch.

Credit To – satawks

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Skyrim’s Secret

August 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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If there are any Skyrim players on here, beware of a place called Husfortap Manor. It exists just outside of the playable area in the southwestern most end of the map, directly south of Markarth. You’l see it on the edge of a mountain as what appears to be a clearing with a rectangular white structure at one end. I found it one day while playing around with the console commands on the game. See, I was bored and decided to explore beyond the playable boundary of the game, as developers tend to leave some interesting Easter Eggs or unfinished concepts in the “Great Beyond”. So I used a command allowing myself to clip through the invisible wall that prevents you from leaving the map and explored around a bit.

For the first hour or so, I didn’t really see much besides empty forests and mountain ranges. I did come across the model for what looked like an early concept for the Falmer, and one of the developers apparently carved his initials into the side of a mountain, but that was really about it. Finally, while approaching the southwest mountain range, I thought I saw what looked like a structure on the other side. My curiosity sparked, I clambered up the mountain with surprising ease and landed in a large grassy yard in front of an enormous white mansion. In front of the mansion was a simple wooden sign that read “Husfortap Manor”.

The mansion itself was surprisingly low-res for a game this recent and lacked a lot of graphical detail aside from two large rectangular windows on either side of the door, and four featureless columns lining the porch. The lawn was also very rudimentary, lacking any sort of decoration or graphical texture and existing instead as little more than a wide sea of green. This must have been a planned location that was abandoned early on in development.

I entered the mansion, which turned out to be nothing more than a bare frame on the inside. No furniture, lamps, or trophy heads were present to decorate the wood walls; the only decoration this place had was a small podium on the very back wall with a featureless black book resting on it. I approached the book and pressed the prompt to read it (which oddly didn’t give the title, it just said “Read”), though disappointingly the page was completely blank except for a number 1 in the upper left corner. Placing the book down, I turned to leave and was unexpectedly greeted by an NPC I hadn’t seen on the way in.

It was a young woman, apparently a Nord, with jet-black hair and wearing a long blue gown. She sort of looked like Lydia but thinner and with longer hair. The woman stood in the center of the mansion, just staring at me and turning her head to follow me as I walked around her. As I came to about even with her, she said bluntly: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, maybe some unrealized quest involving retrieving this woman’s stolen gold?

I determined there was no more to see here and left the mansion. This was certainly an interesting find: an entire location and character forgotten in the code of the game, and I had just uncovered them! And speaking of the character, I intended at some point to find that woman’s code so I could bring her to the main game and make her marryable: she was kinda hot!

Unfortunately, this high point would be overwritten by a horrible next day. On the way home from work, someone came up behind me, knocked me over, grabbed the wallet out of my pocket and ran off. I didn’t see their face, only that they were wearing jeans and a black hoodie. That wasn’t really a tremendous help to the police, who said they’d try to find the suspect but without an actual physical description, it’d be difficult. This definitely sucked: even though I can call and cancel my credit card, I had about eighty bucks in that wallet, and I’m damn near broke as it is! For some reason, I couldn’t help but recall what that woman in Skyrim said: “Wealth is temporary, what is here today will be gone tomorrow.” I knew it sounded silly, but I couldn’t shake that phrase from my mind. Maybe there was a connection?

I ultimately dismissed this thought as ridiculous. After all, whoever heard of a “magic fortune-telling video game”? However, I did need some cheering up after this. I fired up Skyrim and decided to return to Husfortap Manor, as last time I neglected to find out the mysterious woman’s name, which would be helpful if I’m going to hack her code and marry her! After journeying back to that end of the map (and killing a very persistent dragon along the way), I climbed back over the mountain and reached the mansion. Something was different about it though, the bright white that had cloaked the mansion yesterday had now faded into an almost “dirty white”, and the windows were coated in a thin layer of dust, making the view inside slightly translucent.

I approached anyway and stepped inside; to my surprise, the woman had seemingly undergone a change as well. She was a few inches taller, her hair was also a lighter shade than before, and she had more noticeable frown lines. It was almost as if she had aged to some degree. Not drastically, but she definitely wasn’t the hot young twenty-something I ran into yesterday. The woman’s deep blue gown also looked a bit faded, as though it too had aged. As I approached, I noticed that the prompt to talk to her never appeared, making it impossible to know the woman’s name. When I looked to face her, she offered me a faint smile coupled with a slight sigh, almost like she was faking being happy to see me.

“A man works hard for his coin,” she said suddenly. “But when he ceases to be useful, he is cast away to starve.”

Great, another cryptic message from an unmarryable NPC of unknown name in a bare house with nothing but a useless book. Disappointed, I left Husfortap Manor for what I intended to be the last time: it was a neat find, but there wasn’t anything of real value there.

The next day, I was hit with another whammy. As I came into work at the corner gas station, my boss pulled me into his office and told me that the place had gone over budget and he had to let a few of us go, and sadly a certain someone was among these few. I tried to explain my financial state, as well as the little incident yesterday with my wallet, but my boss merely apologized and said that there was nothing he could do, that he “simply didn’t have enough money to pay me.” Whatever, that was a crap job anyway.

As I walked home, a thought came to me, besides my hatred for my boss, that is. This was twice that the woman in blue had predicted my fate. The other day, she said something about the “loss of wealth” right before I get mugged, then just now she mentions workers being cast away, and here I am unemployed the next day. I know I just dismissed this thought as silly, but what if the mysterious woman was predicting my future?

That night, I decided to show the Easter Egg to one of my friends, who’d also been trying to explore the outer fringes of Skyrim with no luck. I had explained to him all the weird things that had happened including being mugged, losing my job, and the cryptic messages that predicted both.

“Dude, that’s so weird.” My friend said when I told him what happened, though I wasn’t sure if he fully believed me.

“I know,” I replied. “I’m kind of afraid to go back, but you know, maybe I can use this as a heads-up from now on.”

I started up the game and returned to the mansion, which was now in even worse shape than yesterday. It looked like the white paint was actually starting to peel off, revealing a stony gray undercoat. Tiny cracks were also beginning to form here and there, if nothing else giving the mansion some texture and personality, albeit an unpleasant one. When I entered, I saw that the woman had aged again as well. This time, her hair was beginning to gray and she had noticeable wrinkles on her face; she looked like she was about in her fifties this time around. Her dress was also beginning to tatter and lose its color.

“I thought you said she was a young woman?” my friend said.

“She was last time, she ages every time you visit the house.” I replied. My friend was confused by this, and with good reason seeing as how NPCs in this game don’t age. As I approached, the woman exhaled and her face almost looked sad.

“Your home is your sanctuary, and you do all you can to preserve it.” she spoke. “But what happens when others aren’t as responsible?” Her tone sounded very melancholy.

“Did you hear that?” I asked my friend in an alarmed tone.

“I didn’t hear her say anything, dude.” he said. “When she opened her mouth, all I heard was static.”

I packed up my computer in a hurry, ran out the door as fast as I could and tore down the street towards my apartment. Maybe I could get home in time to stop whatever was going to happen. Just because the game predicted it doesn’t mean it’s happened yet, right? There still might be time, I thought to myself. There might still be time.

I didn’t need to get close to see the flames. What used to be my apartment building was not a glowing orange inferno; firemen were already at the scene attempting to quell the fire, but it wouldn’t be enough to salvage my burning home. Speechless, I could do nothing but look on in despair at my room, crumbling and falling to pieces before my eyes.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to stand back, sir!” one of the firemen ordered me.

“What the hell happened!?” I cried.

“One of the residents left their stove on and gas spread into the air. We think that they went to light a cigarette and the entire room went up in flames.” The fireman explained. “Did you live here?”

I nodded, and the fireman apologized and offered his condolences. I didn’t know what to think. On the one hand, I was glad I wasn’t inside the apartment, thanks to my discovery of this Easter Egg. However I had just lost everything I owned in that fire, all except for my laptop, and this copy of Skyrim.

Luckily, my friend let me stay at his place for a while, so at least I had a roof over my head. For the next week or so, I focused on trying to find another job so I could rent a new apartment room, yet I was having no luck whatsoever. I told my girlfriend, Susan, the whole situation, from the mugging, to me getting fired, to my apartment burning down. However I did leave out the part about the Skyrim fortuneteller as she is neither a gamer nor superstitious. Susan was overcome with sympathy towards my situation and offered to talk to her boss to see if I could get a job where she works. She really is one-of-a-kind, I thought to myself.

Of course, I still put out what must have been eight job applications that day, just to be safe. Afterwards, I was mentally exhausted and ready to get lost in my video game once again. I decided not to visit Husfortap this time though; I just needed a normal session of escapist fantasy to relax my mind. All was going well for a bit: I took on a few random quests, raided a bandit camp, and brought down a few bears. Then, mysteriously, a courier approached me in the forest.

He did his usual bit about having a letter “for my hands only” and then handed me a note called “SkyrimNote367.esp”. This was made especially bizarre by the fact that I was in the wilderness when this happened, and typically couriers only hand you messages in cities. Regardless, I decided to read the odd note. I pulled up my inventory, opened the note, and saw that it only had one sentence: “Do NOT come back.”

This had to have come from the woman in blue, and I understood why: each visit causes her to age, and we both knew that, eventually, she would be aged to death. Be that as it may, this woman had a gift that could mean the difference between life and death for me. If her predictions could help me prevent possible disaster, I needed to know them regardless of the consequences to her. The needs of a flesh-and-blood human being are above those of an artificial intelligence, sentient or not. I was definitely going back to the manor.

I decided to immediately head for Husfortap after all. Reaching the edge of the map, I entered the console command and scaled the out-of-bounds mountain until I reached the mansion, which was now almost completely dilapidated. One of the support columns had fallen over, littering the front porch with rubble. The windows had all now been busted out, revealing an interior that was dusty and riddled with cracks. The exterior of the house was also checkered with spider webs, their inhabitants eyeing me cautiously.

The woman inside had, as usual, aged along with the house, but a bit more drastically this time: her hair had turned completely white, her face was heavily wrinkled, and she was beginning to hunch over. She looked like she was in her late sixties or early seventies. Her blue gown had now faded into more of a bluish gray, and was littered with rips and tears.

As soon as she saw me, the woman outstretched her hands in protest and shook her head, her face conveying a look of both fear and desperation. However, she did not back away or run, as though she was fixed to that one spot in the middle of the room. I approached the woman in defiance of her protests, causing her to lower her arms and hang her head in defeat.

“Love is a powerful feeling.” The woman choked out, her eyes glassy, as though she was about to cry. “But it is so fragile in this chaotic world, which shows no mercy to even the closest of lovers.”

My heart dropped. The person I loved more than anyone in the world was Susan. We’d been going out for three years and were practically perfect for each other. If anything had happened to her, it would destroy me. I slammed my laptop shut, grabbed the keys to my friend’s car (who luckily was asleep), and floored it to Susan’s house. During my drive, I could only pray that I would get to her in time. I had waited several days to return to Husfortap, what if I already found out too late? Arriving at my girlfriend’s house, I could see through the window that her kitchen light was on. Good, I thought, at least she was home. I approached the door and pounded on it several times. No answer.

“Susan, are you there?” I called, my voice shaky from sheer terror. After a few seconds, I knocked again, my strikes louder and more frantic this time.

“Susan, please open the door!” I called again, pounding furiously, to which there was no response. I was mortified now.

Unable to waste another second, I rammed the door as hard as I could with my shoulder. Once, and then a second time. Finally, I charged full force at the door causing it to give way. I hurried to the kitchen only to find that my worst fear had come true: I was too late. The love of my life lay motionless on the kitchen floor, her mouth dripping foam and her head lying in a puddle of blood. I knew Susan was an epileptic; she clearly had an episode and hit her head on the kitchen table.

I literally felt my soul shatter into a million pieces. Not able to remove my gaze from the dead body of my girlfriend, I staggered forward and fell to my knees. If I had been here just a few minutes earlier, she may still be alive. I lifted Susan’s head out of the puddle of blood and held her to my chest, sobbing uncontrollably. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than for her to reach out and hug me back. In a way, I died that night as well.

Nearly a week had passed since my girlfriend’s death, yet that horrible night still burned fresh in my mind. Why wasn’t I quick enough? Why hadn’t I gone to receive the woman’s prediction earlier? I just couldn’t bear this guilt any longer; no matter which way you look at it, Susan’s death was my fault.

Or was it? That fortuneteller had to have known for some time that this would happen, yet she waste all that valuable time with far more trivial predictions. I could have live without the eighty bucks stolen from me, or that crap job of mine. Hell, even my apartment could have been replaced! But Susan was my love, my soulmate. I had plans to marry her one day. Yet this woman, she chose to tell me the least important fortunes first, knowing what would eventually happen. Had she revealed Susan’s fate from the get-go, or even informe me in her note (that she hacked the game to send me, no less), I could have saved my girlfriend. This was all her fault!

Hastily booting up my laptop, I could see nothing but red. I was gonna kill her, I was gonna bust down that mansion door and break her old body with the strongest weapon my character had. When the game loaded, I was at the very far end of the map as far away from Husfortap as I could be. Plant me wherever you want on the map bitch, it won’t save you!

I barreled through the land faster than I thought my character could, mowing down any unlucky AI enemy that crossed my path; nothing was going to get in my way. My mind was fixated, I could think of nothing more than avenging my girlfriend’s death. The forests and holds of Skyrim flew past my vision in a blur of color; I literally stopped for nothing. At last I reached the mansion, which had completely collapsed into a pile of unrecognizable rubble now, and equipped my warhammer. I was just itching to bash the old woman’s brains in.

I ducked under the fallen beams and clambered over the piles of collapsed marble to find the woman in her usual position in the center of where the building would be. This time, she was older than I’d ever seen a human being. She was hunched and trembling, looking like she was hardly able to stand up. Her arms looked more like skin stretched over bones, her hair was nothing more than thin wisps of white, and her gown existed simply as ragged strips draped over her crippled form. To be honest, the woman looked barely alive at all. In this moment, my rage and hatred gave way to almost pity; her advanced age was clearly putting her in a great deal of pain. I put away my hammer and just stood there, at a loss for what to do.

“You came back.” The old woman breathed in what was little more than a loud whisper. “Why did you come back? Why couldn’t you just stay away?” I could tell she was sad, but simply too exhausted to convey it. At this time, a moment of clarity came over me. I fully understood for the first time that this woman was not a simple mindless AI acting out programming, but rather a living and thinking being who existed within the game. I didn’t know where she came from or who put her there, but there she was nevertheless.

“What are you talking about?” I caught myself asking out loud. The woman, almost as if she had heard me, raised a trembling arm to point to the book at the back end of the mansion. I was confused: the last time I looked at that book, it was blank except for a single number, what would be different now?

Still, I found myself overcome by curiosity and opened the odd book once more. To my surprise, the contents of the book had completely changed. Rather than one simple number, there were now the numbers 1 through 5 running down the page, each with a different symbol by it. The first symbol was that of Skyrim‘s Thieves’ Guild, the second was a silhouette of a beggar, the third of a burning house, the fourth of a broken heart, and the fifth entry…blank.

Wait, if this place knew my future, why was the final entry blank? Then a horrifying realization hit me: what if the woman in blue wasn’t predicting my future after all? What if my visits here were actually causing all those things to happen? They did seem to happen very shortly after speaking to the woman in blue. Yes, it all made sense now: the woman wasn’t at fault, she was simply the messenger of whatever was responsible for the atrocities plaguing me, yet I had to hear her message for them to take effect. That’s why she never wanted me to return here! She knew that my visits would eventually lead to Susan’s death and tried to stop me, but I just wouldn’t listen. Now, my girlfriend was dead and my life was in shambles because of my arrogance and stupidity. Shaken, I closed the book and turned to leave, only to see a horrifying sight.

The woman was dead, and her body was completely decayed. She honestly looked like a draugr with the now-gray rags thrown over it. Clutched in her skeletal hand was a small note, which I dared not read, for I knew what it would say. This manor had taken everything from me, and now there was only one thing left it could take. Terrified and still furious, I switched the computer off, ripped out the game disc, and tossed it in the trash, ensuring the manor’s final curse went undelivered.

Nearly a month has passed since I threw the game away. I am completely broke now and still without a job. My friend’s sense of charity is gone and he kicked me out, and I have no family who can take me in, so now I am completely alone. The only possessions I have now are the clothes on my back and my laptop, which I intend to sell after I type this so that I can finally get some fresh food for once.

I still have no explanation for what happened to me, or where Husfortap Manor came from in the first place. All I know is that there are forces in this world we can’t even begin to understand and, when tampered with, they will destroy us. I had to learn this lesson the hard way and I hope that none of you make the same mistakes I did. If you happen across that mansion in your game, do NOT enter it and do NOT speak to the woman in blue!

As for me, though I will always revile that place for what it did to me, every night when I go to sleep, I toy with the idea of going to the landfill and finding that copy of Skyrim, so that I can return to Husfortap Manor and receive its last message. After everything Husfortap has taken from me, maybe now it could finally give me something: peace.

Credit To – Sean Blevins

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The 121st Night

August 23, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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This is a video pasta – if you are unable to view the embedded video, please click here: The 121st Night

Credit To – Sarah Edge

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South Wing

August 20, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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I was desperately broke. I suppose that was why I decided to suck up my pride and apply for a job at the Hindlewood Mansion. They were always in need of housekeepers at that big old place. In high school, a few of my friends had worked there, but never lasted more than a week before quitting. They all said it was because of the way the old man treated them, but they way they acted when we rolled past that house in our beat-up cars told me otherwise. Something was just…weird about that place.

My appointment for a housekeeping interview was at 9 o’clock at night; a strange time, but I had heard that old man Hindlewood hated company, and we were only to clean house at night when he was sleeping. I did not really mind, my nights were normally pretty uneventful. The small town I lived in hardly had any night-life, and the only gatherings the younger people had were drinking in the corn fields or hanging out at the local gas station. I preferred to stay home and read.

The interview was conducted by the lead housekeeper, a woman who looked a little too old to still be working. She was small and frail, very sweet, but a little strange. The questions she asked seemed a little irrelevant to the job. She mostly wanted to know if I was afraid of the dark, since the old man could not sleep with the slightest light. I did not really understand how, in such a huge place, one light could bother him – even at the other end of the house. We were permitted candles and a flashlight, not exactly ideal for dusting the small nooks and crannies of the old place. Despite the irrationality of it all, I obliged to her request for lack of light; I was never afraid of the dark.

Mrs. Levingston also requested that I never visited the Southern-most wing of the house, where the old man slept, because she deals with that area herself. Hindlewood did not like strangers, and would likely fire me on the spot if he so much as saw evidence that anyone was in his wing.

I suppose I answered all of the odd questions correctly, because I was hired on the spot. I was to work that night, and began immediately after getting my uniform from the maid’s quarters. She walked me to the room with the cleaning equipment, near the kitchen, told me to work the Northern wing for the night (the same wing which the harbored the Maid’s quarters), reminded me again not to enter the South wing, and said goodbye for the night. She was to return at dawn where my session would end, and hers would begin.

I changed and began performing the duties explained to me; mostly dusting an array of antiques. I was about half-way through my shift when I hear a high-pitched whistling. Not like a person whistling, more like the wind spiraling through a small window. I figured a window must have been left open somewhere, so I followed the noise, with my flashlight, checking all of the windows as I passed them. It was oddly still out, and my heart began to beat a bit harder as I noted how eerily quiet it was outside. It did not seem windy at all, so what could this sound be?

Of course, the noise was coming from the Southern wing. I stood at the threshold to the Southern hallway wondering what to do. I did not want to go down there, but could feel a dreadful draft coming from that direction, and was afraid the poor old man could catch pneumonia from the open window. I did not want to be the cause of the old guy’s death, even though he had a reputation for being quite the grouch. I’m sure he would understand, and if not, the worst that could happen is that I get fired, right?

I took my first step into the hall, half-expecting the old man to come charging out garnishing his cane like a crazed dementia-induced madman, but nothing happened.

I slowly walked down the hallway, listening. I could still hear the whistling, but nothing else. I came to Hindlewood’s doorway and put my ear to the door: nothing but the whistling which was clearly coming from the room. The door was nearly closed, yet was open just a crack, and I could see some light coming in from the crevice. It was not artificial light, but a dull blue light, like from the moon.

I slowly opened the door, which creaked loudly as the room slowly came into view, with my flashlight pointed at the floor of the dark room in front of me. The room was large and mostly empty with a very large curtained bed at the center. I could see a lump in the bed with the flashlight, which I assumed was the old man. He looked to be sleeping, but the hairs on the back of my neck told me I was being watched.

As I inched towards the bed, I remembered my purpose for entering: the window. I looked around at the barren walls and out of the corner of my eyes I noticed what was above me. The light poured in from a large skylight above me, yet cast in the light was a shadow; it seemed as if a figure of person was highlighted on the floor from above, yet its shape was unnaturally large and twisted. What would have been the head was shaped more like a V, and where its shoulders would be, there were large pointed protrusions.

I panicked. As I went to turn and look at whatever was standing in the light of the moon, I dropped my flashlight. As I tried to catch it from my tumbling hand, it rolled across the room and under the bed. I watched it fall out of reach, and spun around to check the skylight. There was nothing there, and the shadow on the floor was gone.

With my heart pounding in my chest I got on my knees to seek out the flashlight under the bed. I could see it shining out from the darkness. It had rolled underneath and I crawled in to retrieve it when I noticed that the whistling was gone.

I grabbed the flashlight and held it to my chest trying to calm myself for a second. I told myself I was probably seeing things; the darkness was beginning to get to me and I was seeing false shadows. I needed to check on the old man, who was likely sleeping soundly directly above me.

I took a deep breath and began to scoot my way towards the edge of the bed when the whistling started again. I could immediately feel the cool air whirling around the room. I stopped where I was, still underneath the bed but close to the edge. I peered out, hiding the light of the flashlight in my hands, in the direction of the ceiling with the window. Something was standing there, covered in shadow. I could only see the muddy red gloss of it’s eyes as it stared at whatever was above me. It was then that feet dropped inches away from my face, old veiny and wrinkled feet, and so I tucked my head back into the darkness. The feet lifted into the air as if they were floating, and the whistling was then accompanied by larges gusts of wind, like the flapping of large wings.

Then all was quiet.

I stayed in that spot for what must have been two hours with my heart pounding in my chest. Was I crazy, or had something taken the old man out of his bed while he slept? My mind raced as I lay there, frozen in fear. It was not until I could see the first indications of sunlight that I was able to summon up enough courage to get out from under the bed and look around the room. The bed was empty, like no one had ever slept in it. The room was tidy, the window closed.

I walked to the maid’s quarters, feeling numb and bewildered, and waited for Mrs. Levingston. I did not say a word to her. I took especially long to change, as I knew she would be making her way to the South wing. She came back only a few moments later, and as the maids room was next to the kitchen, I saw her making breakfast. When she saw me, surprised I was still there she says “Oh, glad you are here honey. Mr. Hindlewood worked up quite an appetite last night and I could use your help, would you like to stay for breakfast?” I was not quite sure what was on the menu, so I said “No thank you” and left.

I am still not quite sure what I saw that night. At first I thought Hindlewood was taken by some evil creature, but I saw him walking the gardens the next day by Ms. Levingston. He looked normal, perhaps even more spry than usual. Now, I’ve been working at the mansion for over 10 years,and somehow, the old guy is still alive and looks like he has not aged a single day. Whatever has been going on, I don’t really mind because it gives me a job and good pay. All I know is, I stay out of the South wing, and I’ve learned to ignore whatever it is I hear in the night.

Credit To – B. Paige

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